The Oak Room at Great Fosters, Egham, Surrey TW20 9UR - restaurant review

A magical setting, the former hunting lodge Great Fosters in Egham is home to the award-winning modern English restaurant, The Oak Room. With prices at a premium, they certainly set the bar high, as MATTHEW WILLIAMS discovers

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine July 2011

Restaurant reviewed: The Oak Room at Great Fosters, Stroude Road, Egham, Surrey TW20 9UR: 01784 433822

A magical setting, the former hunting lodge Great Fosters in Egham is home to the award-winning modern English restaurant, The Oak Room. With prices at a premium, they certainly set the bar high, as Matthew Williams discovers

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Verdict:Food: 7. Service: 9. Venue: 9.

What we ate:Two courses, �46

StartersFoie gras: Label Anglais chicken pressing with foie gras and Yorkshire beetrootSalmon: Loch Duart salmon with horseradish, spinach, fondant potato and kohlrabi

Main coursesPork: Dedham Estate pork belly, croquette, salted cheek, choucroute and apple Cod: Roast cod fillet with chorizo, white bean and thyme cassoulet

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DrinksVouvray ‘C�teaux de la Biche’. Domaine Jean Claude Pichot 2008, �30

REVIEW: As you arrive at Great Fosters, turning onto the driveway with house in view and into the Aston-lined car park, it’s hard to expect anything other than something special.

And that’s before you throw into the mix its much pedestalled restaurant, The Oak Room, which has received three rosettes from the AA and is now in the guide’s top 10 per cent.

Built in 1550, probably as a royal hunting lodge, the Grade One listed building, which is now independently owned by the Sutcliffe family, is set among 50 acres of stunning gardens and parkland in Egham and has been graced by the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Orson Welles.

Once inside, you can see why: all welcoming dark wood panelling, it transports you back in time.

The service is absolutely exemplary too. We arrived a little early and, with hopes of a wander around the grounds dashed by the only rain of the month, we settled in at the bar where drinks, olives and restaurant menus were quickly distributed before we were swept into The Oak Room itself.

With high vaulted ceilings, the dining room is a change of pace to the journey so far; brighter with understated modern d�cor and linen-clad tables. It’s certainly a very romantic and unforgettable location.

Just for starters With a fine bottle of Vouvray supplied by the sommelier, along with freshly baked flavoured breads – garlic and thyme, chorizo etc, we felt very relaxed and at home, which isn’t necessarily always the case in these historic establishments.

Unfortunately though, like that old football clich�, our meal proved to be a game of two halves.

Both our fish dishes (my starter and my partner’s main course) proved disappointing when the �46-for-two- courses price was factored in. The flavour of the fish, in my Loch Duart salmon and Sylviane’s roast cod fillet, simply didn’t capture the imagination as you’d hope and the accompaniments were not interesting enough to rescue things.Yet, here’s the rub. The other two dishes were as close to the top end of the spectrum as it gets.

Sylviane’s foie gras starter was a stunning dish that blew her away, leaving her more than a little speechless – the foie gras working with the chicken and beetroot to perfection.

My main course, the pork belly, was just as good. Succulent pork cooked two ways and just a little bit special – a really stunning dish.

Sitting in our fairy tale setting, with the last of the wine still cool from the ice bucket, we had plenty to contemplate, especially when the bill arrived…

The bar is set very high with the prices charged at Great Fosters and, while nothing about our meal was particularly bad, when you’re spending that amount diners have every right to expect every single mouthful to send the palette soaring. Sadly, on this occasion, that wasn’t quite the case.

That aside, though, a memorable evening in gorgeous surroundings; now we just need the Aston Martin...

For the art lovers: Sculpture Al Fresco, an outdoor sculpture exhibition in the grounds of Great Fosters, is set to run until Monday August 29 offering the perfect opportunity to try out The Oak Room for yourselves, or simply experience the glorious setting.

3 other triple AA rosette restaurants(and what the guide had to say about them)

Drake’s  The Clock House, High Street, Ripley GU23 6AQ: 01483 224777  Chef-patron Steve Drake earned his stripes with some of the world’s biggest names – Nico Ladenis, Marco Pierre White, the Roux brothers and fabled French chef Marc Veyrat.

Bingham Restaurant61-63 Petersham Road, Richmond TW10 6UT: 0208 940 0902Set in a boutique hotel, which was originally built as two Georgian houses, chef Shay Cooper’s modern British menu is full of stunning combinations of flavours and textures.

The Glasshouse14 Station Parade, Kew TW9 3PZ: 0208 940 6777Part of the Nigel Platts-Martin and Bruce Poole stable of restaurants, the Glasshouse is a buzzy neighbourhood bolt-hole that gets everything right.

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